Top 10 news stories of 2010

News that stays news, news that lasts. That, according to one poetic wag, is what makes literature. It doesn’t necessarily mean that any of Rappahannock County’s “Top 10” news stories for 2010 will have the staying power of the Iliad or a Shakespearean history, but who knows? At the very least, they are worth a reflective look back as we enter the New Year of 2011.

All great stories — and thus the most newsworthy — have memorable narratives that, it is said, are variations on the two grand literary themes of man-versus-man or man-versus-nature. In a year that saw much man-versus-man debate about man’s impact on nature — locally and regionally, focusing on the Chesapeake Bay watershed and, nationally and internationally, regarding climate change — it is fitting that Rappahannock’s No. 1 story remains the weather. “Mother Nature,” as one local baseball-loving wit is fond of saying, “always bats last.”

The February snowstorm. Staff Photo/Jan Clatterbuck.

Snow and Drought. By the time last winter ended, Rappahannock County had recorded, by some accounts, a record 50+ inches of snowfall. Schools were closed, hikers had to be rescued in the Shenandoah National Park, and roads were flooded when the snows finally melted.

Then, in the summer, there seemed to be little or no precipitation at all — coupled with 90-degree-plus heat from mid-June through late July. Only in September did any significant rain fall, and by then local farmers had suffered an estimated $6.4 million loss due to the drought.

Changing of the Guard. The Rappahannock County Public Schools got a new superintendent — Aldridge A. Boone — a new high school principal — Robert Stump — and a new football coach — Terrence Johnson.

Meanwhile, at the county courthouse, Diane Bruce retired in March as clerk of the court after 32 years of honorable and knowledgeable service. Her loyal assistant, Peggy Ralph, easily won November’s election to serve as the next clerk.

Vertical Challenges. After much debate and legal challenges, the eastern edge of the county saw Dominion Virginia Power’s huge electric transmission line erected. As the year closed, other towers — this time for cell phone transmission — were the subject of heated debate. A final decision from the board of supervisors was expected early in the new year.

Welcome Strangers. The county’s new Visitors Center, on U.S. 211 in Washington, opened for business — organized and overseen by the county’s tourism office and helped along by a re-energized Rappahannock Hospitality and Visitors Association.

City-like Sewer. After years of planning and discussion, the Town of Washington inaugurated a state-of-the-art central water treatment plant. The effluent recycled into the Rush River is now cleaner, according to Mayor John F. Sullivan, than the river it’s flowing into.

Castleton Festival. In its second year, Lorin and Dietlinde Maazel’s summer festival of opera, concerts and recitals grew even bigger and better — giving Rappahannock County a prominent place on the international musical map.

Economic Stimulus. Even though, like the rest of the country, the county continued to suffer from the economic downturn, optimism was reflected in the new enterprises undertaken by local entrepreneurs, including Local Flavors food distribution, the revamped Blue Rock Inn and the Sperryville River District’s arts and food cooperative called Rappahannock Central.

Violent Ends. Sperryville resident Buddy Pullen was charged with the shooting death in August of his stepson Herbert Wayne Jenkins.

The Fauquier Livestock Exchange burns in September. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic.

On a late September evening the Fauquier Livestock Exchange was engulfed in flames of mysterious origins. Many Rappahannock cattlemen had faithful ties to the exchange, and its manager was Lindsay Eastham, of Ben Venue.

New Ownership. Since 1877, this local newspaper, in one form or another (but under relatively few ownership changes), has served the Rappahannock community. Arthur W. “Nick” Arundel, who had bought the paper in 1977, sold the Rappahannock News to a local group of concerned and committed citizens and investors.

Final Farewells. Among the community-minded Rappahannock residents who died in 2010 were Ester Settle, Ray Cannon and Paul A. Poling. They will be missed.